Chelsea: Can the Blues be the new Invincibles?
Chelsea have romped their way to the top of the Premier League table and, with 22 points from eight games already, the talk of them being 'title contenders' has gained credibility. The fact that they beat London rivals Arsenal (2-1) and Tottenham Hotspur (4-2) in their own backyards adds to the voices that seek to anoint Chelsea champion elects.
It is an interesting proposition indeed, one which Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo has been quick to rebut. Beneath the usual platitudes, such taking one game at a time, even he knows that this Chelsea side is something special.
Roman Abramovich took a trifle too long to confirm Di Matteo as Chelsea manager, after he had secured a historic Champions League and FA Cup to boot. Chelsea fans were only assuaged by some big money signings such as Oscar and Eden Hazard. Add to that Victor Moses and Cesar Azpillicueta, Chelsea looked like a different animal. Whether they played like one was everyone's guess.
Chelsea have not disappointed so far, scoring 19 goals in eight games and conceding only six in the process.The Invincibles: wishful thinking?
This article takes the 'title-talk' a level further and debates whether Chelsea can emulate the Arsenal side that went unbeaten for a whole season when they won the Premier League title in 2003/04. At the outset, it must be clarified that any such discussion is based on and is subject to massive conjecture. Assuming that Chelsea can indeed become the 'Invincibles' this season, many football fans may disagree with this hypothesis even as Chelsea get ready to welcome Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in a few days.
But what is football without some fanciful discussion.The rankings
Let us look at how Chelsea players stand in terms of their rankings in the official FA Premier League stats. Petr Cech is the best goalkeeper at the moment, leading Ben Foster of West Bromwich Albion by a massive 30 points. It may come as a surprise to many, but Fernando Torres leads the EPL Player Performance Index in the forwards category right now. This is a strong comeback from the Spaniard who was all but written off last season. Amongst the midfielders, Chelsea secure a one-two with Juan Mata and Eden Hazard leading the index.
In defence, Branislav Ivanovic and Ashley Cole are amongst top five defenders right now. Given Chelsea's strong run at the Premier League table, it is natural that so many of their players are at the top of their game and dominate the Player Performance Index.The evidence
The Arsenal side of 2003/04 nicknamed the 'Invincibles' won 26 of their games and drew 12 to finish top of the table. They scored 73 goals that season and conceded only 26. If Chelsea were to continue scoring like this or even drop a level, they would end up with a similar, if not higher, number come end of the season. The same applies for goals conceded as well.
Another interesting statistics from that season is that Arsenal used 22 different players that season, but largely relied on a settled first 11, which consisted of stars like Henry, Bergkamp, Pires and Viera to name a few. Henry was in his prime and dominated defences at the time. The defensive spine consisted of England defenders Ashley Cole and Sol Campbell.
Chelsea have a settled first team as well and unless January sees reinforcements, the bunch of players on Chelsea's books would be used in the current Premier League campaign.It must be highlighted that Henry scored the most number of goals, 30, that year, followed by Pires with 14. The others chipped in with a few goals. But there were 13 different scorers for Arsenal that season. Chelsea have already had seven this season.
The Gunners did managed to keep 15 clean sheets, a big feat indeed. Chelsea have raked up four in eight matches, so one can safely assume that they would be there or thereabouts 15 clean sheets come end of the season.The mentality: Can they do it?
Di Matteo was asked as to how Chelsea were able to come back from behind to win this season, against Reading and Spurs. Di Matteo replied that there has been a change in attitude. "Chelsea are trying to stay positive even away from home," he said. His remark that Chelsea approach games away from home as if they are playing at home seems to be on the mark. With the attacking talent that he possesses, Chelsea can match any side in Europe at the moment.
It is still early days and it takes just one off-day and one loss to forego the remit required to become the 'Invincibles'. But who would bet against this Chelsea side to put one over Manchester United the way they have answered every question asked of them so far this season?
Calling all Chelsea fans: Do you think Chelsea have what it takes to remain undefeated this season? How impressed have you been with the Blues so far? Who has been your best player this season? Are we seeing the beginning of a new Chelsea, a Chelsea that doesn't depend on Terry and Lampard? Is the Premier League your number one priority this season? Whatever your views, we'd love to hear from you.
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